Promoting Behavioral Health at the State Level

by MCF Director of Public Policy Ann Geddes—During the state’s legislative session which ended earlier this month, MCF advocated for behavioral health funding and legislation. Our Director of Public Policy, Ann Geddes, tracked legislation, submitted testimony and supported families to have their voices heard by legislators. Below, see a list of recent bills related to behavioral health and the status of each.

Legislative Wrap-Up

The 2019 legislative session ended at midnight on April 8. Here is a summary of some of the bills that MCF was following.

HB 77/SB 395 – Criminal Law – Decriminalization of Attempted Suicide.

Passed as amended. MCF supported this bill.

As amended, HB 77/SB 395 provides that attempted suicide is not a crime.


HB 116/SB 846 – Public Health – Correctional Services – Opioid Use Disorder Examinations and Treatment.

Passed as amended. MCF Supported this bill.

As amended, HB 116/SB 846 will require screening, evaluation and access to medication assisted treatment for individuals with opioid use disorders, initially in four counties (Howard, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s), with an expansion to the remaining local jurisdictions by 2023. In addition, it establishes a medication assisted treatment pilot program in the Baltimore City jail.


HB 139/SB 135 – Public Health – Overdose and Infectious Disease Prevention Site Program.

Failed. MCF Supported this bill.

A harm reduction bill, HB 139/SB 135 would have established an Overdose and Infectious Disease Prevention Site Program. Programs would have provided a supervised location where drug users could use pre-obtained drugs, as well as receive other services, including first aid, education, and referrals. The bill allowed for the establishment of programs at up to six sites.


HB 166/SB 280 – Payment of Wages – Minimum Wage (“Fight for Fifteen”).

Passed as amended. MCF supported the amendment to provide for a rate increase to behavioral health providers.

As amended, HB 166/SB 280 requires that the minimum wage in Maryland be increased to $15/hour by 2025 for companies with 15 or more workers, and by 2026 for companies with less than 15 workers. The bill allows for a rate increase for behavioral health providers to cover the costs of implementation.


HB 337 – Criminal Law – Opioids – Distribution Causing Death of a Minor.

Failed. MCF opposed this bill.

HB 337 would have required a sentence of up to 30 years if an individual was found guilty of distributing an opioid resulting in the death of a minor. The bill would have undermined the Good Samaritan Law.


HB 599/SB 631 – Health Insurance – Coverage for Mental Health Benefits and Substance Use Disorder Benefits – Treatment Criteria.

Passed as amended. MCF supported this bill.

HB 599/SB 631 would have:

  1. Required insurers to submit annual reports to the Maryland Insurance Administration showing that they are in compliance with parity laws
  2. Required that insurers use ASAM (American Society of Addiction Medicine) criteria when authorizing treatment for individuals with substance use disorders

As amended, 1., the reporting requirements, were stricken from the bill, but the requirement that insurers use ASAM criteria was left intact.


HB 837/SB 761 – Health Insurance – Payments to Noncontracting Specialists and Noncontracting Nonphysician Specialists.

Failed. MCF supported this bill.

If an insured individual can find no appropriate in-network provider within a reasonable distance that can be seen within a reasonable amount of time, they can get approval from their insurer to see an out-of-network provider. Unfortunately, the insurance company will only reimburse the out-of-network provider the amount that they would reimburse an in-network provider, and the provider then can bill the patient for the remaining amount of the bill. HB 837/SB 761 would have prevented this “balance billing” by requiring insurers to pay increased reimbursement rates to out-of-network providers, and prohibiting the provider from billing the consumer for any cost above the insurer’s payment.


SB 570 – Distribution of Fentanyl Resulting in Death.

Failed. MCF opposed this bill.

SB 570 would have established a 40-year penalty for an individual found guilty of distributing fentanyl resulting in death. The bill would have undermined the Good Samaritan Law.


SB 1030 – The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future.

Passed as amended. MCF supported this bill.

SB 1030 is the result of the initial recommendations made by the Kirwan Commission (the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education). One of the many provisions of the bill establishes a dedicated Mental Health Services Coordinator in each local school system with $83,333 in funding for fiscal year 2020 and 2021. According to the Maryland Safe to Learn Act, passed in the 2018 legislative session, the Coordinator must:

  1. ensure that a student who is referred for mental health services obtains the necessary services;
  2. maximize external funding for mental health and “wraparound” services (wraparound services are defined as services provided to students and their families, including mentoring, tutoring, child care, housing, transportation, crisis intervention, substance use prevention and treatment, legal aid, academic counselling; and career counseling); and
  3. develop plans for delivering behavioral health and wraparound services to students who exhibit specified behaviors of concern.